Define: Real Estate Brokers

A real estate broker is a term in the United States and Canada that describes a party who acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of real estate (or real property as it is known elsewhere) and attempts to find sellers who wish to sell and buyers who wish to buy. In the United States, the relationship was originally established by reference to the English common law of agency with the broker having a fiduciary relationship with his clients.

In the US, real estate brokers and their salespersons (commonly called "real estate agents" or, in some states, "brokers") assist sellers in marketing their property and selling it for the highest possible price under the best terms. When acting as a Buyer's agent with a signed agreement (or, in many cases, verbal agreement, although a broker may not be legally entitled to his commission unless the agreement is in writing), they assist buyers by helping them purchase property for the lowest possible price under the best terms. Without a signed agreement, brokers may assist buyers in the acquisition of property but still represent the seller and the seller's interests.

In most jurisdictions in the United States, a person must have a license before they may receive remuneration for services rendered as a real estate broker. Unlicensed activity is illegal, but buyers and sellers acting as principals in the sale or purchase of real estate are not required to be licensed. In some states, lawyers are allowed to handle real estate sales for compensation without being licensed as brokers or agents.

Real Estate Education: To become licensed, most states require that an applicant take a minimum number of classes before taking the state licensing exam. Such education is often provided by real estate brokerages as a means to finding new agents.

In many states, the real estate agent must disclose to prospective buyers and sellers who represents whom.

While some people may refer to any licensed real estate agent as a real estate broker, a licensed real estate agent is a professional who has obtained either a real estate salesperson's license or a real estate broker's license.

There are two levels of real estate professionals licensed by the individual states, but not by the federal government:

"Real Estate Salesperson" and "Real Estate Broker"

When a person first becomes licensed to become a real estate agent, they obtain a real estate salesperson's license (some states use the term, "broker") from the state in which they will practice. To obtain a real estate license, the candidate must take specific coursework (of between 40 and 90 hours) and pass a state exam on real estate law and practice. To work, salespersons must be associated with (and act under the authority of) a real estate broker.

Many states also have reciprocal agreements with other states, allowing a licensed individual from a qualified state to take the second state's exam without completing the course requirements, or, in some cases, take only a state law exam.

"Real Estate Broker" (or, in some states, qualifying broker):

After gaining some years of experience in real estate sales, a salesperson may decide to become licensed as a real estate broker (or Principal/qualifying broker) in order to own, manage or operate their own brokerage. In addition, some states allow college graduates to apply for a broker license without years of experience. College graduates fall into this category once they have completed the state required courses as well.

California allows licensed attorneys to become brokers upon passing the broker exam, without having to take the requisite courses required of agent. Commonly more course work and a broker's state exam on real estate law must be passed. Upon obtaining a broker's license, a real estate agent may continue to work for another broker in a similar capacity as before (often referred to as a broker associate or associate broker) or take charge of his/her own brokerage and hire other salespersons (or broker) licensees.

Becoming a branch office manager may or may not require a broker's license. Some states such as New York allow licensed attorneys to become real estate brokers without taking any exam. In some states, such as Colorado, there are no "salespeople", as all licensees are brokers.

A Realtor is a real estate professional, usually a broker or salesperson, who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). There are 1.3 million Realtors, mostly in the US, and an additional 1 million licensed real estate agents who are not members of NAR and cannot use the term "realtor". However, note that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics claims only about 600,000 working brokers/salespersons.